In three weeks, Fort Hudson nursing home residents will get vaccinated against the virus that killed 25% of the people in one unit last spring.
CVS Pharmacy will begin vaccinations at the nursing home in Fort Edward on Jan. 2, CEO Andy Cruikshank said.
“Despite what HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and New York state is indicating on the news, vaccines aren’t landing on our doorstep today,” he said. “And there will be limits on the number of staff able to be vaccinated during this first round.”
But all residents will be vaccinated on Jan. 2, if they or their families have given consent. Workers will stay for “as long as it takes” to get the job done in one day. They will return on Jan. 23 to give everyone their second dose. By mid-February, everyone should have built up a protection against coronavirus.
“We feel we’re really close to the end zone right now,” Cruikshank said. “Honestly, the mere thought of having the bulk of our residents vaccinated is such a tremendous relief. Knowing that we are within a month or so of having the first true level of protection that we’ve had in nine months … words escape me.”
During the second round of vaccination, more staff will also be vaccinated. It’s not yet clear when every staff member will receive both doses.
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“From a very broad perspective, the vaccine distribution is such a monumental task that is being undertaken. It’s understandable that the rollout is going to be bumpy at times,” he said. “We just need to be patient.”
He’s relieved that the long siege will soon be over.
“To say the least, we are extremely excited,” he said.
CVS and other national pharmacy chains will be vaccinating residents at Centers Health Care facilities, too, but haven’t yet given the nursing homes a date. The company owns multiple nursing homes in the area and around the state, including the locations of two major outbreaks: Glens Falls Center and Essex Center.
“The facilities are working with one of the national pharmacies for this distribution, but as of this morning, these plans have not been made available,” said Centers spokesman Jeff Jacomowitz. “Leadership at all locations are keeping families abreast on what distribution plans are when they become available. Approval to administer the vaccine to residents are done per family sign-off.”
In the meantime, nursing homes have to get past two huge hurdles: the holidays and the temptation to slack off now that a vaccine is being distributed.
Workers risk their residents’ lives if they visit family during the holidays or relax their precautions, after nine long months. Officials worry the existence of a vaccine can tempt people into feeling the war is over.
“We can’t be complacent,” Cruikshank said. “I just hope that all of our staff and families continue to be very vigilant.”
Fort Hudson is holding a conference call with families later in the week to explain the vaccine. Officials need informed consent before giving the vaccine to anyone. Cruikshank said he does not expect significant opposition, but he acknowledged that there may be a few people who choose not to get the vaccine.
Hospital workers are also in line to get the first doses of the vaccine, but Glens Falls Hospital and Saratoga Hospital officials do not yet know when they will get doses.
Albany Medical Center Hospital, which has handled the bulk of the coronavirus patients in the region, received 975 doses Monday morning and vaccinated five health care workers immediately.
Albany Med will be vaccinating health care workers who work in settings where there is an increased risk of infecting people who are at high-risk. That means workers in the intensive care units and the emergency department will be vaccinated first.
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